Strengthening Connections in Townsville

In early June, TFFF Trustees Tim Fairfax AC and Gina Fairfax AC, Advisor Sarah O’Brien, and Foundation staff travelled to Townsville to connect with several current grant recipients and see first-hand the impact each has on the community. 

In early June, TFFF Trustees Tim Fairfax AC and Gina Fairfax AC, Advisor Sarah O’Brien, and Foundation staff travelled to Townsville to connect with several current grant recipients and see first-hand the impact each has on the community.

The visit coincided with the 2024 Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) Qld State Conference, which was attended by TFFF Senior Program Manager Katie Norman and provided an occasion to learn from rural families, engage with the Department of Education and meet familiar and new child-focused partners.

The first day of the trip began driving out to Idalia on a beautiful North Queensland winter morning to view the new AEIOU Townsville premises, currently under construction. Here, we were joined by Alan Smith (AEIOU CEO), Russell Fryer (Hutchies Managing Director), Mitch Grimmer (Hutchies Team Leader), Schahana Clark (AEIOU Senior Service Delivery Manager), Emma Newham (AEIOU Townsville Centre Manager), and site manager Mark Taylor.

Tim, Sarah, and Gina being given a tour of the new building by Alan.

TFFF approved funding to support the construction of the new purpose-built centre in August 2023, and has previously provided support for AEIOU’s regional Autism Early Intervention program. Delivered in partnership with Hutchinson Builders, the centre was designed as a state-of-the-art facility with three classrooms, a motor skills therapy room, telehealth rooms, a community meeting and training space, research rooms and external learning environments and playgrounds. The thought put into every aspect of the build, from accessibility to noise dampening, was incredible – it was clear both staff and children will benefit greatly from the new centre.

L-R: Alan, Emma, Sarah, Gina, Tim, Neal, Sahala, and Russell at the AEIOU construction site.

Following the site tour, we met Kate O’Hara (Director) and Daniel Qualischefski (Gallery Manager and Curator) for lunch near Umbrella Studio. Umbrella Studio is a gallery and studio space which delivers an annual program of onsite and touring exhibitions, public programs, arts residencies, studio access, and professional development programs, along with TFFF-supported biennial arts festival, Pop Up North Queensland (PUNQ). After lunch, Kate and Daniel gave a tour of the studio, where exhibitions Pressing Topics by The Ironing Maidens and An Unnatural Historyby Sarah Treadwell were on display, and introduced the Umbrella team – Erin Ricardo (Arts Programs Manager), Rikaela Rusch (Marketing and Communications Manager), Sabrina Toby (PUNQ Creative Producer), and Amanda Galea (Arts and Marketing Administrator).

Heading downstairs to the studio space, we met a community artist in the process of utilising the equipment to create intaglio prints using recycled tetra-pack containers. Umbrella’s vast storage room was a maze of interesting and unusual artistic equipment and supplies, including a vintage loom, lithographic stones so heavy they required a pallet jack to move, and the only publicly available darkroom north of Brisbane.

Neal, Tim, Sarah, Gina, Kate and Daniel in the Umbrella Studios gallery.

Returning to our hotel, we met with Jacinta Perry (Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership Country Qld Lead). The Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership (TQKP) is a cross-sector coalition of not-for-profit, philanthropic, tertiary, and government bodies all committed to improving health, education and family services systems that shape young lives. With TFFF’s support, TQKP delivers the Thriving Country Queensland Kids Collaborative, designed to support leaders, organisations and practitioners delivering child, youth and family health, development and wellbeing services and initiatives in rural, regional and remote Queensland.

The day concluded with dinner with Dancenorth, attended by Hillary Coyne (Executive Director & Co-CEO), Kyle Page (Artistic Director & Co-CEO), Eloise Grace (Company Producer), and Judith McLean (Chair), which provided a reflective end to a productive day.  Dancenorth is one of Australia’s leading contemporary dance companies. Alongside its professional ensemble, touring productions and artist development and leadership initiatives, Dancenorth delivers the TFFF-supported Community Experience Program

TFFF, Brett, Rick, De’arne, and Deadly Start students at Seed Foundation’s offices.

Day Two began with a visit to Seed Foundation, where we shared morning tea with Brett Fragiacomo (Executive Officer), Rick Phineasa (Operational Manager, Townsville), and De’arne French (Administration Manager, Townsville) and looked in on a cohort of Deadly Start students undergoing their Health and Community Services Cert II training. Seed Foundation aims to grow the potential of Australia’s First Peoples by inspiring and promoting self-determination through education, health and employment, and provides holistic support services to improve health, wellbeing and employment outcomes. Its TFFF-supported First Peoples Health Program provides upper secondary and Year 13 students with health literacy education, qualifications, career opportunities, higher educational pathways, and support to navigate and achieve these.

Next, we stopped at the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association Queensland State Conference held at The Cathedral School, where we were warmly welcomed by Qld State Council President Wendy Henning. The ICPA strives for equity of access to education for all students who live in rural and remote Queensland. Its policies are formed through motions brought to the state conference each year by branches from across the state. The organisation also provides an opportunity for many departmental representatives, Members of Parliament, Senators and other stakeholders to hear issues and opportunities from those directly experiencing them at its conference. 

ICPA Qld 2024 State Council.

Ningana Trust has supported ICPA Qld since 2011, enabling State Council Members to attend each year’s conference, participate in delegations with state government and peak body representatives, and advocate for rural and remote students’ educational needs. After a brief moment to mingle and explore the extremely well attended conference, Wendy gave the 2024 President’s Welcome, sharing the numerous initiatives ICPA Qld has been involved with over the past year.  After the initial speeches, most of the TFFF group departed back to Brisbane, leaving Katie to attend the full conference over the next two days.

Tim, Gina, and Sarah with Treasurer Amanda Clark (centre) and members of the Belyando-Mt Coolon branch, who hosted this year's conference.

Umbrella Studio, Dancenorth, and Seed Foundation are supported through the Resilience stream. AEIOU Townsville and Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership are supported through the Futureproof stream. ICPA Qld is supported by Ningana Trust.

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The Tim Fairfax Family Foundation is based in Meanjin (Brisbane).